Hugh McKay – Tripot #5


Artist Name:  Hugh McKay
Title:  Tripot #5
Details:  Maple burl

Why It’s Notable:

When I first saw this photo, I thought, “Those are three nicely-proportioned vessels made of nicely-figured wood.” And then I looked again. What I failed to realize at first was that the three hollow vessels were actually made from a single piece of burl, and still connected!

This is a level of multi-axis lathe work that I have never encountered or imagined before, and it has reignited my interest in turning.

8 thoughts on “Hugh McKay – Tripot #5

  1. Yes! by coincidence, I’m home in Wisconsin for the holidays and yesterday I saw one of the tripot series in Wausau at the Woodson Museum. The whole exhibit was good, but the tripot and a tiny piece by David Pye (yes, the author of The Nature and Art of Workmanship!) really made me stop for long looks. First the concept, then how well it was done, then for a longer look at where the “seams” should be. All of those were inspiring. I walked out of the museum feeling like I had been encouraged to see what I can do!

    1. So, Jim, as somebody who has recently studied a Hugh McKay Tripot up close, recently, how “prefect” are the seems? Are they as sharp as one might expect? I’m also curious how the crevice between all three pots was handled. Any insights?


      1. It called to mind a quote from Arthur Clarke, who said (approximately) “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The piece was obviously made from a single monolithic piece of wood. Where the different “pots” met, I couldn’t detect any difference in texture, and the intersections were crisp and perfect. In the end I could imagine one or two ways it could have been done, but it was so well done that a few minutes of study didn’t show me how it had actually been made. I walked away admonished to refine, refine, refine my technique in all I do! I would drive 100 miles to see these again if my vacation weren’t ending tomorrow.

    1. Hi Steve,

      In researching this article, I didn’t find much information on the web. He does detail his process in Woodwork #41, however.

      I read somewhere that he gave up woodworking for glass blowing.


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